By ALIFAH ZAINUDDIN / Pic By TMR File
MALAYSIA will continue to seek the return of billions of dollars’ worth of assets allegedly stolen from the state fund 1Malaysia Development Bhd (1MDB) under the new government, said Prime Minister (PM) Tan Sri Muhyiddin Yassin.
The country has so far retrieved RM1.4 billion stolen from the sovereign wealth fund, with an additional RM6.9 billion in funds identified.
The PM has ordered for efforts to track and recover monies stolen from 1MDB to continue, the PM’s Office said in a statement issued yesterday.
Muhyiddin was briefed yesterday by a special team tasked to track and recover monies misappropriated from 1MDB in 17 countries.
The taskforce comprises representatives from the Attorney General’s Chambers, the National Financial Crime Centre, the Malaysian Anti-Corruption Commission, the Royal Malaysia Police, Bank Negara Malaysia and the Ministry of Finance (MoF).
The US Department of Justice (DoJ) has estimated that over US$4.5 billion (RM19.5 billion) was siphoned from the fund between 2009 and 2014 under former PM Datuk Seri Mohd Najib Razak, who is now on trial for corruption.
Najib has been charged with 42 criminal offences related to losses at 1MDB and relevant state entities. He has pleaded not guilty to all charges.
The DoJ returned nearly US$200 million to Malaysia in May last year. However, a second transfer of US$240 million scheduled for Feb 19 was delayed last month amid uncertainty in Malaysia after Tun Dr Mahathir Mohamad resigned as PM.
Monies returned will go into a special fund at the MoF established to pay 1MDB’s bondholders. According to the Auditor- General’s declassified report on 1MDB, the fund has amassed debts of over RM55 billion.
Former Finance Minister Lim Guan Eng in October last year revealed that the government had to fork out RM13.9 billion to settle the debt obligations of 1MDB and SRC International Sdn Bhd since 2017.
This included RM2.7 billion to be paid this year.
In an interview with Reuters, Dr Mahathir said the DoJ should “think twice” and reconsider its decision to send back monies stolen from 1MDB to Malaysia following Umno’s return to federal power.
“When we took over, the DoJ was willing to give it to us because we overthrew the people who stole the money. Now, the people who stole the money are going to get back the money they stole. I think the DoJ will have to think twice,” he said.
Three units of Goldman Sachs Group Inc last month pleaded not guilty to charges of misleading investors regarding US$6.5 billion in bond sales that the US investment bank helped raised for 1MDB.
The government had filed multiple criminal charges against the three units for misleading investors by making untrue statements and omitting key facts in relation to the 1MDB bond issues.
A representative for Goldman Sachs pleaded not guilty after the charges were read out at the Kuala Lumpur High Court.
The court set the trial for November, with hearings scheduled until April 2021. Malaysia has said it was seeking up to US$7.5 billion in reparations from Gold- man Sachs.